For some reason, we’re on quite the anime kick. This was another movie we picked up at Comic-Con this past summer and we finally had a moment to sit down and give it a watch. I didn’t bother looking at the movie up or reading the back of the cover. I went into this movie having no idea what it was about.
I remember watching Howl’s Moving Castle once before years ago, as it had been an assignment for one of my college classes. I watched it in parts on YouTube — which was vastly different from 8 to 9 years ago when I saw it — and remembered a scene here or there and a vague concept of the movie, but not much else. I remembered that it was a good enough movie to pick up a copy of it for ourselves back at Comic-Con, anyway!
The movie began showing off the protagonist, Sophie. She doesn’t get out much, is shy, and doesn’t seem to have too many friends. She works in a hat shop owned by her mother and father, who is now deceased. As everyone leaves for work, the other employees gather out the window because they can see this big, moving, machine that looks like a monster. They were all amazed and it took a second to realize – oh, it’s “Howl’s moving castle” and totally not a monster.
Howl is known in the movie, as is the other witches and wizards that are employed by the kingdom. Sorcery and magic are normal enough. While magic is still amazing, it’s common knowledge that it exists. The hat shop women giggle about how Howl only likes beautiful women, and Sophie — despite how plain she believes she is — encounters him when he helps stave off some unwanted men. Due to her encounter with Howl, however, Sophie is cursed by the Witch of the Waste to look like an old hag. The Witch of the Waste has been after Howl’s heart for quite some time.
The Witch of the Waste, however, is often shown at unflattering angles so we’re to believe she’s ugly and can’t see it herself. I loved Grandma Sophie though because she just embraced her old age and made the perfect old woman. Sophie sets out on a quest to find the Witch of the Waste to change her back as she doesn’t want to be looking that an old woman in front of her customers and family.
Grandma Sophie instead finds herself at Howl’s Moving Castle as the new cleaning woman (with the help of a scarecrow with a turnip for a head). With her influence, Howl and his apprentice Markl start to appreciate their home a bit more, even as they constantly switch locations to avoid joining the king’s army for the war going on around them all. Howl at one point convinces Grandma Sophie to go see the king and his head sorceress herself to let them know that Howl is too much of a coward to join the war, and Sophie meets up with the Witch of the Waste, who was answering her own summons.
And… that’s where I’ll stop due to spoilers. I enjoyed all the characters in this movie (even the bad guys). They all had a purpose and contributed something worthwhile to the plot. The setting, especially the house, was great as well. There was a deeper message hidden along the way about beauty and loving yourself as you are, which was nice too.
Well, as spoilery as we can be with a movie that’s about 15 years old, haha! Everyone does seem to learn self-love and acceptance that is then extended to their family members. The animation was beautiful, and I enjoyed the music of the movie as well. The voice actors were fun to hear, with the English version having plenty of familiar actors to us, such as Christian Bale, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall, and Billy Crystal. If you ever get the chance to watch the movie, we recommend it!